Island cities spend almost $50,000 to attend FCM annual in Vancouver
The optics are all wrong surrounding costs involved to send large delegations from Summerside and Charlottetown to the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Vancouver. Combined, the two cities spent almost $50,000 to attend the annual meeting May 31 to June 3.
Charlottetown sent seven councillors and Summerside five, including both mayors. Summerside Deputy Mayor Bruce MacDougall also made the trip but, as president of the P.E.I. Federation of Municipalities, that group covered his costs. Charlottetown spent $25,297.00 for seven delegates and Summerside paid $24,589.84 for five delegates.
Both cities have been through this public scrutiny before. There are always questions about who goes and how much it costs but both cities either didn’t care about any criticism or felt they could defend those expenses.
The meeting was on the west coast so that’s one reason to send fewer delegates. Summerside Coun. Peter Holman, who was elected to FCM’s board of directors in Vancouver, says he wants to have the FCM put a policy in place to deal with travel. He also wants individual councillors to do their own booking but we’re not sure how this will result in cost savings. Groups should get discounted rates so why isn’t the host city getting the best rate for FCM delegates at several hotels and making that information available? This way, there should be no surprises.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation felt obligated to wade into the fray, wondering why so many councillors had to go to Vancouver. The CTF says while it’s important for municipalities to be represented at such events, sending big delegations is not good use of taxpayers’ money.
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart, a former FCM national president, vigorously defended the costs because he says there is strength in numbers at these meetings and important work is done, such as dealing with gas taxes and infrastructure.
Stewart bristled at the suggestion he wasted taxpayers’ dollars.
The numbers in Vancouver certainly seem excessive. Here’s some advice for both P.E.I. cities for next year: Book early and get group discounts.